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The heads of 30 of the largest telecoms and network technology suppliers have written to European politicians to express “deep concern” over plans to overhaul the laws that govern the digital communications sector.

The letter, seen by the Financial Times and signed by the bosses of Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Ericsson, complains about amendments made to the Electronic Communications Code that they believe will be a major disincentive to investment in the sector.

Brussels lawmakers continue to negotiate the terms of the legislation amid fierce debate in the industry. The European Commission outlined proposals for a more investor-friendly regime under a ‘Digital Single Market’ two years ago, which had been welcomed by telecoms companies given a loosening of some rules to encourage investment.

But the European Parliament and Council of Ministers later watered down these plans, and introduced new rules to clampdown on oligopolies where telecoms markets are dominated by a small number of companies. That was described as replacing “carrots with sticks” by industry experts, and raised fears among some of the biggest investors in European telecoms.

The letter from the telecoms companies, which invest a combined €29.2bn a year, said that the proposed code will not deliver the Digital Single Market vision and that the status quo would be preferable to the new amended laws.

“If Europe is to match global competition and deliver on the Gigabit Society objectives, policy and regulatory conditions need to provide markets with ambitious pro-investment rules and increased certainty, moving away from interventionist regulatory dynamics,” the letter said.

Tim Höttges, chief executive of Deutsche Telekom, said: “We cannot continue to regulate new fibre the same way as old copper. A different, more predictable and investment-friendly regulatory framework for all investing in fibre is key for the development of a modern European communications infrastructure.”

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT, said more clarity of law is needed. “The code is Europe’s chance to really support fibre and 5G, but it will only deliver if it creates the right incentives and regulatory certainty for us [and other infrastructure providers] to commit to the significant investments that are needed,” he said.

The letter has been sent to specific European commissioners, the president of the European Union and Pilar Del Castillo at the European Parliament.

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